What Will Happen When My Child is an Adult?

San Francisco Gate, by Laura Shumaker, Writer/Autism Advocate, 2011

This is a question that keeps parents of children with autism awake at night. Trust me.

In the state of California, it’s estimated that 84% of all regional center consumers with autism are under 22, the age when services from their local school districts end. The services needed for this burgeoning population include (but are not limited to):

  • Behavioral Services
  • Day Program, Supported Employment, and Work Activity Program Services
  • Health Care and Therapeutic Services
  • Independent Living and Supported Living Services
  • Residential Services

Enter The California Autism Foundation in Richmond. They have been providing a spectrum of services that meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities and autism for nearly 26 years.
“We take a holistic approach with an understanding that everyone deserves to live in a real home, have a real career path and have an equal opportunity to participate in today’s economy,” says John Visbal, CEO of The California Autism Foundation. “People with developmental disabilities should share the same quality of life.”

The California Autism Foundation began in October 1982, when six friends met around a dining room table to create a home in the community for the foster son of the founder of the California Autism Foundation. Severely handicapped with autism, 18-year-old Kenny lived at Napa State Hospital. Kenny had very little speech, severe behavior problems, and almost no family contact. The founder was told that if he wanted Kenny to live in the community he would have to start a program himself.

With $30,000 in borrowed funds, the first A Better Chance home opened in August 1983 in San Rafael, California with six young men who were previously thought to be unable to live in the community. The program was named “A Better Chance” (ABC) in recognition of the fact that no outcomes could be guaranteed, but that the residents would have a better opportunity for success if they live in a genuinely therapeutic environment. Emphasizing consumer empowerment through the development of communication skills, positive programming, and respect for the individual, the experiment was very successful. Kenny and five housemates still live at ABC I, enjoying an active and productive life.

In 1986, the Regional Center of the East Bay asked CAF to open a second home, and subsequently the Foundation continued to expand and operate several residential homes. Today, CAF provides three licensed homes serving adults with developmental disabilities in Contra Costa County.

Beyond residential care, the CAF family has grown to include a unique array of services offering A Better Chance for over 250 families:

  • A Better Chance School, a progressive K-12 nonpublic school for students who have been unable to thrive in public schools.
  • A Better Chance Richmond Day Program, providing community and site-based vocational development and lifelong learning.
  • ABC Transportation, providing quality transportation service for behaviorally challenged consumers.
  • ABC Industries, an accredited Work Activity Program, that provides adult education and operates Custom Assembly & Packaging (CAP), a successful business providing packaging, labeling, and assembly services at competitive prices.
  • ABC Supported Employment, an accredited service to support disadvantaged workers in finding and keeping employment.
  • ABC Supported Living Services, support services in consumers’ own homes.

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